The Smile Said It All!

  • 06 Jan - 12 Jan, 2018
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Fiction

The prospect of meeting her class fellow after 15 years made Ayesha really excited; all thanks to the internet for making it possible. She did not trust her memory fully these days but vividly remembered the day when a petite girl with a rosy complexion joined her school right after the midterm of grade 10. Her name was Sheherbano.

Having found Ayesha on Facebook, sending her a friend request unleashed a flood of beautiful memories for her. They had met at 16 and hardly had a chance for proper interaction but their similar interests kept them together. They also went to the same college, so spending so much time together made them inseparable.

Ayesha got married at an early age, so she did not get much time to plan her future, but Sheherbano was an ambitious girl who wanted to pursue a serious career. Ayesha’s hasty matrimonial arrangements left little time for the girls to say goodbye and led to a quick parting of ways. However, they found each other on the social media website and had already made plans for a meet up.

Ayesha’s married life was apparently a success; she was married to one of the leading business tycoons and had three children attending best schools in the city. She couldn’t wait to hear what Sheherbano had been up to and if she had succeeded in building a career. The beautiful spring complemented her good mood; she was meeting her best friend after ages!

The big day arrived. Ayesha was just about to leave after instructing her maids to attend her children properly on their return from school and ordering her cook to call the driver, when she noticed her kitchen helper sobbing quietly while doing the dishes. She already knew the reason, but asked anyway and was confirmed; the poor girl had had a usual tiff with her husband which had left her with a bruise on her face, not to mention emotional instability. Ayesha made a general comment about how her maid’s husband has grown increasingly selfish and indolent now, much because she unprotestingly handed him all her hard-earned income. The helplessness evident from her maid’s eyes saddened the mistress too, but there wasn’t much she could do to help the situation, so she just left for the meet up, praying inwardly for her kids’ safe return from school. Even the thought of meeting her friend made her smile. She passed a huge framed wedding photograph on her way outside; it reminded her of the tepidity experienced throughout her marital relationship so far.

On meeting, the friends shared genuine compliments of looking both, stylish and younger over the years, despite being middle-aged women. Ayesha was pleased and impressed when she heard that her friend had continued studying after graduating and had also started working at a prestigious IT firm. She also felt a pang of jealousy when she reminisced about how they had planned on choosing a similar career after completing their studies and enjoying adulthood and freedom together. Sheherbano had two kids, who were both attending good schools and her husband was also an IT consultant.

Both friends exchanged interesting details of their lives over a hearty meal and how lucky they were to have been blessed with beautiful families. When Sheherbano asked Ayesha about her family lifestyle, she proudly told her about the clubs she and her husband were members of and their elite friends they often partied with. It was not even remotely true; when she envisioned her husband, all she could feel was loneliness and distance. But she couldn’t have told her friend, no. Ayesha assumed and Sheherbano confirmed that both spouses belonging to the same field and earning side by side was an ideal situation in the present era. While saying so, she thought how years of hard work had reaped her nothing, as her husband’s materialistic hunger could never be satiated. In their mechanical lives, they lived together as strangers while days passed monotonously. Both friends put up a perfect façade of married bliss and parted after exchanging home addresses and promises to see each other again. Reminiscing over their meeting, both wondered how lucky the other was. Ayesha thought the loneliness and zero control she exercised over her husband was the worst thing that could happen to a woman. She was grateful to God for the comforts that she had been granted with but on rummaging her heart, she couldn’t find satisfaction there. She did try sharing her thoughts and feelings with her husband in the initial years of their marriage but his terse replies were so discouraging that she had to stop. Her only source of solace was rearing her children now, while she unknowingly developed a cocoon, mostly keeping to herself.

On the other hand, Sheherbano found herself envious of the aristocratic lifestyle Ayesha enjoyed, with all her needs tended lovingly by her husband. The thought of going to office the next day and her exhausting career burdened her wounded soul further. Her earnings and commitment could not lure her husband into loving her. Myriad of reasons came to her mind for being the way they were.

As planned, Sheherbano confirmed a couple of weeks later that she would be visiting Ayesha over the weekend with her kids. She made special arrangements for tea and ordered for the finest china from her collection to be used. Frequent visits made to the kitchen made her realise that her kitchen helper was continuously smiling, humming and even talking to herself. She couldn’t help asking the reason. The maid told her mistress with a shy smile that her husband had promised to take her to see a movie. Before Ayesha could laugh and remind her of her husband’s past behaviour, the maid revealed a twisted tube of cheap fairness cream from a knot in her dupatta and explained with a radiant smile on her face that her husband had bagged a job and had bought her the cream she had long been wanting to use. Their conversation was interrupted by the doorbell announcing the arrival of her guests.

Ayesha and Sheherbano were having a great time and so were their kids when Sheherbano received a call from her husband, reminding her details of a payment she had to make. Her face was bereft of every emotion while she listened to her husband on phone. She then excused herself from Ayesha, preparing to leave. She was so heartbroken that she couldn’t stop herself from confiding in her friend that her life was dictated by nothing but her husband’s desire for money. His greed had exceeded his love for everyone and caused her immense sadness. Her eyes clearly reflected upon the loneliness she had been experiencing for years now.

The only thought on Ayesha’s mind while going to sleep that night was who was the luckiest; high-class women like herself she met at the club meetings, working women like Shehrbano or women who were spinsters by choice or fate. She could not determine her answer, until the next morning when her maid came to give her a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice. The shy smile playing on her lips confirmed Ayesha that the woman before her was indeed the luckiest. •